Standards and Labels

Voluntary standards, labels, product declarations, collectively named sustainability information tools, identify products according to their environmental and social attributes. The value of these tools relies on their ability to make the information about product sustainability available to the end-users.

Information about the environmental and social impacts of processes and products helps to identify what needs to be improved to make products more sustainable. To be meaningful in achieving an overall improvement, such information needs be properly quantified based on life cycle assessment with the aim of avoiding burden shifting - seemingly solving one problem while creating another - which may happen from one stage of a life cycle to another, from one region to another or from one environmental impact area to another.

Managing value chains involves the planning of a set of flow activities from the downstream (customers) to the upstream (suppliers), with the objective to satisfy the final demand with all its attributes: cost, quantity, lead time, flexibility, reactiveness, associated services, while at the same to optimize resource use, minimize environmental impacts and reduce internal and external dysfunctions. This has become particularly challenging given the complexities of globalizing value chains of products, which stretch beyond national boundaries and connect fragmented markets, different production systems, regulatory frameworks, and consumers.

The product’s life cycle information brings benefits across the whole value chain in terms of resource efficiency gains, reduction of production costs, manageability of the chain, trustful relation with suppliers, credibility of the brand and company’s reputation along with environmental and social improvements.

So this information is of immense value if we want to know where to move and how do it in the transition to more sustainable models of development. But this value depends on the degree of its availability to decision-makers (governments, businesses and consumers) in a format that is understandable to them.